The B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and the Jewish National Fund (JNF) will hold a joint Holocaust commemoration ceremony on May 2, Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah). This ceremony is the only one in the world dedicated to commemorating the heroism of Jews who rescued fellow Jews in Europe. Some 250 Border Patrol cadets will provide an honor guard, and 300 high school students will participate. The ceremony will take place at the Martyrs’ Forest Scroll of Fire Plaza.
Guest speaker will be professor Uzi Arad, former chairman, National Security Council and diplomatic advisor to the prime minister. Also speaking will be Austria’s Ambassador to Israel Michael Rendi; KKL-JNF Chairman Efi Stenzler; and B’nai B’rith World Center Chairman Haim V. Katz. Soni Schey Birnbaum, eldest daughter of Joschua and Henni Birnbaum who rescued Jewish children in the Westerbork detention camp in Holland and at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, will represent the Jewish rescuers. She and her five siblings, who all made aliyah after the Holocaust, will light a memorial torch.
For the first time, a “Jewish Rescuers Citation” will be conferred at the event by the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust (JRJ) and the B’nai B’rith World Center to the Birnbaum children and other rescuers who will be present. The citation will be conferred in the future on all known Jewish rescuers or their next-of-kin in Israel and around the world.
The event will be held at the Martyrs’ Forest—a joint B’nai B’rith-JNF project which memorializes the victims of the Holocaust in six million trees planted in the picturesque Jerusalem mountains near Moshav Kesalon. At the pinnacle of the forest stands the “Scroll of Fire” by the renowned sculptor Nathan Rappaport, which invokes the destruction of the Jewish people in the Holocaust and their redemption in the State of Israel in a bas-relief. The event will commence with personal testimonies by Holocaust survivors.
The story of the rescue of thousands of Jews by fellow Jews who labored throughout Europe to save them has yet to receive appropriate public recognition. Many who could have tried to flee stayed behind to rescue others; some lost their lives. Jews in every country in occupied Europe used creative methods such as forgery, smuggling and concealment to rescue fellow Jews. This ceremony is a unique opportunity to hear from the rescuers who have often been reluctant to recount their stories.
The organizers of the ceremony view it as especially important to expose Jewish youth to the story of Jewish rescue during the Holocaust as a model for Jewish solidarity and courage.